ANDY RIGBY has carved out a unique niche for himself in the world of music, as one of Australia’s leading designers, makers, players and teachers of the harp. His performance interests include most folk traditions involving the harp, while his harp-making orders cover modern folk harps as well as medieval Gaelic brass-strung harps, Spanish Baroque chromatic harps, Welsh triple harps, and West African koras.
It all began in 1981, when Andy extended his love of Irish music into the world of the Celtic harp (while still working as an agricultural engineer for the Victorian government). Self-taught by necessity, he learned the craft in the folk clubs and festivals of Victoria, swapping tunes with fiddle and flute players and scouring records and books for harp tunes.
In 1984, Andy procured a Paraguayan harp and began learning Paraguayan and Venezuelan music from Alfirio Cristaldo in Melbourne. The recordings of Alfredo Rolando Ortiz have also been a major influence and in 1993 Andy arranged for the Harp Society of Victoria to bring Alfredo to Australia for the first National Harp Festival. The Andean music of Melbourne’s Chilean community attracted Andy to the band “Haravicu”, with whom he played harp and kena (flute) for two years. Melbourne’s rich multi-cultural mix led to his inclusion in the “Sadko” Russian folk orchestra, the Melbourne Austrian Choir, and “Il Grupo Folkloristico Italiano” in the early 1980s.
In 1986-7 Andy worked as an engineer on water projects in Botswana, and absorbed some of the musical culture of Southern Africa. Since returning he has taught the making and playing of marimbas, and has played with African musicians Joe Malatji, Valanga Xhosa, and Siyo Afandi in Melbourne.
Since 1990 Andy has been a full-time musician and instrument maker. After several years of intensive school and community workshops in marimba and flute making, Andy is now busy making folk harps to order. His designs take features from the Celtic and Paraguayan traditions, leading to a unique hybrid style of harp which he has called the “Paraceltic Harp”. Demand is considerable, and after making 200 harps, Andy now makes only the larger harps while his assistant Stephen Oram makes the smaller “lap harps”. Andy runs harp-making workshops in central Victoria, where people make their own instruments under supervision. Andy and Stephen make extensive use of Australian timbers in their harps.
Andy performs mainly on a Paraceltic harp, and has made research trips to the Celtic countries and South America in search of music and ideas. He is well known around Australia as a teacher and solo performer of folk harp.
Andy has composed many pieces for the harp, and is proud to have been commissioned several times to produce pieces for special occasions. Some of these are featured on his first solo CD “Made & Played”, along with a range of Celtic, South American and African music, and more recently on “Andology- Vol I & II”.